Nearly all of the Los Angeles Lakers spent significant portions of their woeful 2012-13 NBA season injured, suited-up, watching expensive, mediocre basketball. But former Laker Andrew Bynum took that to the extreme this season, when his first season in Philadelphia turned into a bowling sabbatical where he did not play in a single game.
The Lakers were disappointing, but Andrew Bynum’s disappointing season was devastating. Andrew Bynum was officially ruled out of the remainder of the season when he had season ending surgery on both knees in March. At least one knee injury was a bowling accident. Bynum only made news for his injuries and outrageous hair.
Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum are both unrestricted free agents this offseason. Both of the NBA’s premier centers want a max-contract, but based on their 2012-13 seasons neither should get it. Presumably I’m in the majority, but the Lakers center next year, if temporarily take money out of the decision making process, should be Andrew Bynum, not Dwight Howard or anybody else.
This season was not the first season that Andrew Bynum missed due to crippling knee injuries, and it won’t be the last. He only played in more than 65 regular season games once in his career. Dwight Howard had offseason back surgery last year, and despite it being his first major injury, afterwards he did not look like the same D-12 as in Orlando. Along with many other injuries, it severely affected his play. But will it carry over next year?
Long term Dwight Howard is more likely to have a longer career despite being 2 years older. Bynum’s knees have taken a beating. But he has dealt with knee injuries his whole career, and knows how to be effective with them. I give the edge to Bynum.
On the court
Dwight Howard has much better rebounding instincts, and his numbers support that. Even with limited activity this year he lead the NBA in rebounding. But Andrew Bynum’s post skills are far superior. He scores with his back to the basket, and keeps the ball high. Dwight Howard must have led the league in balls stripped out of his hands while inside the restricted area, and his post moves regressed (along with his touches).
I give the edge to Bynum here because of how well he works with Pau Gasol. If the Lakers want to maximize their potential, Bynum might be as good as Howard, but Bynum and Pau Gasol make each other better.
Besides acquiring a potential franchise player like Dwight Howard to build around, a big motivating factor for Mitch Kupchak trading away Bynum in a 4 team deal was his maturity issues. Those problems did not appear to get better in his first season away from LA either. Memorably, Bynum clobbered JJ Barea, he was surly when Mike Brown (remember him?) benched him for shooting a corner 3-pointer (a move yet D’Antoni probably would have made him team captain for), and he would often even lash out against Phil.
Dwight Howard’s infamous ‘will he stay or will he go’ routine stretched on forever, and it has not ended yet. The frustrating part for outsiders is the disconnect between what Howard says and what he does. He is constantly talking, since there are constantly microphones in his face, and no matter how motivated he says he is, his play is inconsistent and uninspired.
Attitude issues and drama will be a major part of the equation. with either center. But a major difference between the two is even though Andre Bynum didn’t play all season, he still appears comfortable in his role no matter what it is. Dwight Howard plays many roles, and never looks comforable in any of them. Bynum saw what it was like this year, from a distance albeit, to not be on a contending team. He is fine with it. But if he comes back to LA he could at least temporarily put his maturity issues behind him, and be the center that won two NBA titles in Los Angeles.
Both players are a high risk, with no guarantees of a high reward. This is not a classic case of the devil you know and the devil you don’t. The Lakers know both devils. But Andrew Bynum knows the devil that is Los Angeles, and he might be motivated to come back for slightly less than max money to help the team he grew up with, and could win with again. Howard doesn’t know what he wants, and will get max money somewhere.
The Dwight Howard I watched this season should not be the starting center for the Lakers next season. But pursuing who Dr. J accused this week of being ‘damaged goods’ is a risky move.
What do you think Hubsters? Should the Lakers take a chance and get Andrew Bynum back?